The Fisherman


Once again been overwhelmed by responses over Christmas to this whole project, which has barely started. One thing I wanted to do was not only shoot rubbish in the environment but also talk to people who deal with it everyday, cause it and are having it affect their livelihood.

One of these groups is fishermen, I’ve been pretty much demonising them as allowing ghost nets to stalk the ocean and showing no end of fishing related debris. However, thanks to an old school friend, James Gilbert, who I also grew up surfing with, we are heading down another path with the project as well.


James is a farmer and fisherman, he grows organic veggies and livestock, but crucially also has a crab, lobster and fishing boat in East Norfolk where we grew up, he sells most of his fish direct, so when he guts them he’s going to take a look at what is in their stomachs, and we’re going to photograph how much plastic, fish in the southern North Sea have in their bellies. Before we start this though I thought I’d have a quick chat with him about the bad side of fishing and the pollution it creates.

First off tell me a little about your background fishing wise?

Always have had a connection to fishing as you know with my uncle, and when I was 20 he offered to sell me his boat, and an area of land he owned, both of which I still own and work. To get the money together I worked on every sort of fishing boat you can imagine bar huge factory ships.


So you’ve got a pretty good handle on what the attitude to rubbish and things coming off fishing boats? 

I can sum it up pretty easily, the bigger the operation the more they are likely to discard nets and other fishing related equipment. Bottom line for me is, I am a two man operation, so more or less as small as it gets, so losing a pot or buoy is a big deal, losing a net would be a disaster. So I am very careful, I can’t afford not to be, the odd buoy gets lost, I’ve lost one or two pots in 17 years and never a net. However you scale up an operation and to make it pay boats are out in conditions which are barely fishable in, I’ve been on ones which lose buoys from nets every set, I’ve had to cut parts of nets free, it’s to do with being under too much pressure to make things pay. Having said that I’d say your average fisherman is very conscious of his environment, as much as you are as a surfer, and never intentially puts debris of any type into the sea.


Ok so what about on the other side of the equation, what you’re finding in fish?

Well I haven’t been looking up until now, not here in Norfolk anyway. But I’ve worked with two other fisherman, one in South West Wales and one in western Scotland, and both were doing environmental analysis, both were finding plastic in the guts of the fish they were catching. I’m basically starting here from tomorrow, it will be interesting to say the very least, and it is something that really concerns me. I see so much debris out at sea off the Norfolk coast, not so much on the beach as the prevailing wind is offshore, but when you’re further south off Lowestoft or Felixstowe and then towards the Thames there is so much litter out there it is horrendous, so be fascinating to see what there is in the fish!


So there you have it, the first blog from the first fisherman, the next one is up in Norway,but we’ll get to that in the next few weeks. I’m off now to help gut fish and phone the makers of Fairy Liquid to see what they think of their plastic bottles littering a remote stretch of coast in Iceland.


Big thanks as always to the sponsors.


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